Just like last time, our first park to visit was Animal Kingdom. The crowds and need to be there at the crack of dawn are a little less intense - and we all knew it was likely we wouldn't be there that late into the day - allowing for some much needed R and R with an early evening back at the hotel.
As always, passing under this sign for the first time just makes you happy. That's one of the reasons I love Disneyworld vs. Disneyland so much - it really is a whole WORLD that you enter into. You feel like you're entering into a portal of happiness.
And, on this day, this is the route we took.
We didn't stage this - the kids just kind of gravitated together to make this happen on their own as we walked from the parking lot to the front entrance. While we may not have initiated it, we certainly preserved the moment by taking a pic of it!
We were there before the park opened, so we had a little wait time to take some happy family pics. (Mom and Dad and the Whites were both en route at this point). One of my favorite parts of the wait was when they turned on some of the entry music and it was the beginning song of "The Lion King". The Swahili words that everyone hears (but no one really knows what they are) - the whole crowd started to chime in and sing with. It was so sweet. I loved the expression of the mid-Eastern guy near me who was SOOOO confused with what was going on.
Not surprising, Brayden was in an exceptional mood and clearly very cuddly.
That's our crew (and my hot momma) walking along - Destination EVEREST!
Because we arrived early and not everyone was with us yet (the previous pic is actually out of sequence but gave you a good view of the mountain)... the Schillings and Rileys hopped into the line for "Expedition Everest" and cruised straight through to be seated. We had Fast Passes for this, but figured we could probably get 2-3 rides in before we'd even need to use them as we were there so early.
John isn't much of a coaster fan, but he was enthusiastic for one run.
The view of the vast expanse of Disney"World" from the top....
The next ride through involved the Whites, and then the following one, Mom joined in.
It's not a secret that Mom makes for the best seat mate on any coaster attraction as she giggles uncontrollably. It is contagious and everyone around her can't help but laugh with her. I scored by getting the first ride with her - especially since she'd never been on this.
Yes, she's practically crying here - laughing so hard!
John took these two pics with his long lens from the ground (one ride was indeed good enough for him) -
And I love how you can even see our expressions as we come down!
We ended up doing that ride four consecutive times. I loved it, but three times should have been my limit. In fact, my whole family pushed it too far on that one - we were all looking a little green. Fortunately, I had packed Meclizine with me - and this was the last day it was passed out amongst us AFTER a ride took place. (It's the generic name for Bonine....and helped so much without the sleepy side effects of Dramamine).
Consequently, everyone was content to head to DinoLand. Travis and the Schillings headed over to "Dinosaur" (a ride I hadn't been overly thrilled with before, so I was content to miss). Instead, I was determined to see this little one get her chance to experience some fun. I mean the crowds and sights were amazing at Animal Kingdom, but having to sit out through 4 runs of "Everest" - she was ready for some action.
Unfortunately, "Triceratops Spin" was temporarily out of commission, just as we were about to get on.
So, Stephanie and myself - who were looking after Whitley while my family recuperated and the rest were on "Dinosaur" - ventured across the path to the Discovery Area. I found it amusing that Whitley's first attraction to participate in at Disneyworld actually involved her digging in sand (or pebbles). "Sweetie, it gets a lot more exciting than this".
And, then, YAY! - "Triceratops Spin" was back in operation. And, Travis was able to go, too. I know, I know, I should be the one in the back seat and Travis should have been holding her on his lap, but this was Whitley's request and no one was going to challenge her after she'd waited so long. She had been eyeing this ride for a bit by now, and was started to appear a little worried about just what she was walking on to. So, getting her on board without issue was important.
Nati and Ellie were able to hop on board behind us.
And, then, more magic happened. Whitley LOVED it.
I had seen this girl at the Salem Carousel, at the Corvallis Bounce House, and even those coin slot trucks and such at the mall....freak out. I'm not going to sugarcoat the reality that I was very concerned with how she would feel about these rides and if she would be terrified and want nothing to do with them. (Which everyone would have worked around, but would have been a bummer).
But, from this moment on, Whitley showed her beautiful family heritage of thrill ride loving....and she made everyone so proud. SHE LOVED IT...and, as the week continued wanted higher, faster, and bumpier.....
When she got off the ride and approached those of our group waiting, she threw her arms in the air and shouted "I did it!" I wanted to cry.... =)
From DinoLand, we slowed the pace a bit as our next Fast Pass wasn't until a little after 10 to do the "Kilimanjaro Safari". This was nice as we knew it meant everyone could participate.
The great "Tree of Life" in the center of the park....
And, then Brayden got a hold of the camera and took some shots.
I figured this would be a no brainer for Whitley to enjoy - and the rest of us remembered it fondly from our 2010 trip. Again, it was nice to sit down and just look and watch for a little bit - with our whole group seated nearby.
Between Whitley's stubbornness to actually smile ("no, sticking out your tongue isn't what we want, we are looking for a family portrait here!") and John's desire to "photobomb" - these shots were doomed.
Lots of beautiful animals - I don't think you'll have a hard time determining which shots John took and which were from my phone!
The final attraction of the morning was "Kali Rapids" which Whitley was just able to participate in. The height limit is 38" and she measured 38 and 1/4" prior to leaving (way to go Whitley!). We had to beat feet to that ride and hope the Fast Pass line swept us through as our dining reservations were only about 30 minutes out. Aunt Chele was the chosen one in this line - to help her see the birds...
Note the nice dry clothing in these pics.
Mom and Dad, Michael and Michele, and Travis and Nati were on this one.
And, then, the water hit!!!! No faking that expression - I was DRENCHED!
And Whitley was in Heaven! Look at that JOY! If we had had the opportunity, I think she would have loved to keep repeating this one.
Our reservations for lunch were at the Rainforest Cafe, in two tables, one under my name and one under John's. So, the two of us sped-walk as rapidly as possible (running's not allowed...we learned that the hard way in 2010....) all the way across the park to the entrance where the restaurant was located to make sure we had checked in. I may look semi-dry on top....But, my khaki shorts were absolutely soaked.
The kids escaped the chill early (they didn't have to wait around to pay the bill) - and here's where we found Brayden - by the entrance....asleep.
Our Riley family had decided at lunch that we'd be leaving right after lunch. For us, the remaining attractions at Animal Kingdom weren't of higher value than some rest and a trip down to the pool. (The decision was made that much easier in being so uncomfortably wet). Mikayla was like this within minutes of getting into the car.
And then, John followed suit. (I sent this pic to the rest of the crew still navigating the park about how miserable we obviously were.... ;) ). A couple things to note, we were seated next to the pool (not in view), and I was asleep too, soon after the shot was taken.
Meanwhile, Mom and Dad watched the "Lion King" show and the Schillings rode "Everest" and "Primeval Whirl".
The Whites took to foot for the walking tour of the other animals not featured on the Safari. This brought some regret that we'd missed it. Mama Gorilla to the right had herself a baby earlier in the year and this little guy was determined to mimic whatever Mama did. I wish I could have seen it myself - the Whites said it was such a kick and Whitley loved their antics.
And, then, Whitley fell into the ranks of nappers.
And, then, she didn't! Brayden was legitimately asleep at the point Stephanie took this pic. Too funny! (To Whitley's defense, on late starts for school, she'll help me jump on Brayden to wake him up....so I think she felt it was her job).
Later on, dinner was a low key - a "Nachos in our own kitchen" kind of affair. Whitley helped John
polish them off.
The older kids opted to check out the attractions our resort had to offer. They hit up the arcade and loved this Rollercoaster Simulator. (Apparently, we could have saved ourselves a whole lot of money had we known....)
And, then, John joined them down at the lakeside area - where S'mores were available to roast.
One really interesting sight that they watched from the railing was this. You are looking at some sort of waterfowl bird carrying a fish it caught above the water to the shoreline. How bizarre, right?! It ended up abandoning it as it couldn't get the thing into his mouth!
Overall, the feeling I had at this resort was that it felt a little stuffy and for an older set. But, this activity brought out the families and festive spirit. I was thrilled that the kids took it upon themselves to find this and participate in it - and not leave any moment uncelebrated.
DAY TWO PRICELESS MOMENTS:
- Watching the kids walk hand in hand into the park and the spontaneous kiss from my boy (he still loves his Mom!) when I was taking our selfie.
- Flying through the park like we were on "Amazing Race" with John - as we sought to get to the restaurant in time to save our reservations.
- Experiencing Mom's "Giggle Fit" on "Expedition Everest" - much less her willingness to ride with Michele and I in the first place despite the fact that she had a little trepidation of the ride. (Stephie scared her by telling her about the dark backwards part!). She was such a trooper - and so fun and eager....I'm not kidding when I say her spirit is contagious.
- Whitley's exuberant "I DID IT!!!!!" upon conquering "Triceratops Spin". It was everything I hoped for her to feel and embrace and so, so much more. Not only was I so excited for her, but I was overjoyed for Travis and Steph to consider how much happiness they'd be feeling on her behalf. Not to mention how much pride they had every right to feel for the way their daughter was soaking up this trip!